Steroid hormones have a profound influence on the secretion of the gonadotropins, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). These effects can occur as a result of steroid hormones modifying the secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) from the hypothalamus, or a direct effect of steroid hormones on gonadotropin secreting cells in the anterior pituitary gland. With respect to the latter, we have shown that estradiol increases pituitary sensitivity to GnRH by stimulating an increase in expression of the gene encoding the GnRH receptor. Since an estrogen response element (ERE) has not been identified in the GnRH receptor gene, this effect appears to be mediated by estradiol stimulating production of a yet to be identified factor that in turn enhances expression of the GnRH receptor gene. However, the importance of estradiol for enhancing pituitary sensitivity to GnRH during the periovulatory period is questioned because an increase in mRNA for the GnRH receptor precedes the pre-ovulatory rise in circulating concentrations of estradiol. In fact, it appears that the enhanced pituitary sensitivity during the periovulatory period may occur as a result of a decrease in concentrations of progesterone rather than due to an increase in concentrations of estradiol. Estradiol also is capable of altering secretion of FSH and LH in the absence of GnRH. In a recent study utilizing cultured pituitary cells from anestrous ewes, we demonstrated that estradiol induced a dose-dependent increase in secretion of LH, but resulted in a dose-dependent decrease in the secretion of FSH. We hypothesized that the discordant effects on secretion of LH and FSH might arise from estradiol altering the production of some of the intrapituitary factors involved in synthesis and secretion of FSH. To examine this hypothesis, we measured amounts of mRNA for activin B (a factor known to stimulate synthesis of FSH) and follistatin (an activin-binding protein). We found no change in the mRNA for follistatin after treatment of pituitary cells with estradiol, but noted a decrease in the amount of mRNA for activin B. Thus, the inhibitory effect of estradiol on secretion of FSH appears to be mediated by its ability to suppress the expression of the gene encoding activin.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Animals
- Animal Science and Zoology